The Gina Holmes File:
by C.J. Darlington
Gina Holmes Interview
"...writing is a wonderful form of therapy that helps me work out things from the past, present and future." -- Gina Holmes
In 1998, Gina Holmes began her career penning articles and short stories. In 2005 she founded the influential literary blog, Novel Journey. She holds degrees in science and nursing and currently resides with her husband and children in Southern Virginia. Her debut novel, Crossing Oceans was just released with Tyndale House Publishers. To learn more about her, visit: www.ginaholmes.com or www.noveljourney.blogspot.com
Were books a big part of your life growing up? If so, what books would you say influenced you most as a child?
Oh my yes! I always had my nose in a book. My parents used to have to force me outside to play. The world inside books was just so much more intersting than my life. I loved fairy tales above all when I was young, then as I grew a little, I moved on to Hardy Boys and A Wrinkle in Time, and then (cringe I know) V.C. Andrews and eventually Stephen King. Oh yeah, I also loved to read the medical dictionary. I guess looking back, I was destined to be a writer/nurse.
Did you always have the inclination to write, or did that desire come later in life?
I knew writing came easier for me than most. In high school, everyone would cringe to get an essay question, while I cheered. It wasn't until I was grown and a nurse that I thought about giving writing a try. I don't recall what sparked the idea I might try it. I just knew I needed to make some money while staying home to raise my baby. I thought writing would be a quick and easy way to make some cash. Ha!
As someone who came from a broken home, do you think that played any part in your choosing writing? Did you perhaps find it cathartic or an escape?
I think in a way, writers are born. I'm a melancholy personality and would have been if I was born to the Cleaver family. I didn't write to escape then, though I did read to do that but then I think I would have anyway. I believe now that writing is a wonderful form of therapy that helps me work out things from the past, present and future.
Your early fiction works fell into the suspense genre, but Crossing Oceans is definitely not a thriller (though it certainly propels you to turn the pages). What was it that drew you to writing in a more literary fashion?
I had grown up reading Stephen King so I thought that was what I should be writing. Four novels later, I started getting into some very different reading material for me, Jane Eyre, Peace Like a River, Memoirs of a Geisha, Kite Runner, etc. I decided to try my hand at something new. I began a mystery series at the same time I started writing Crossing Oceans and presented both to my agent Chip MacGregor and asked which one he thought was more my true voice. He said, "Crossing Oceans" and the rest is history.
Do you see yourself continuing in this genre or do you ever want to try your hand at suspense again?
I don't see myself ever writing suspense again. That could change of course, but I honestly don't think it was ever the right fit. I always had trouble writing action scenes and kept making everything so literary and introspective. I was like a salmon swimming upstream. I'm not now.
When an author writes about deep issues like you do, often readers will assume the book is autobiographical. I know that's not the case for you, so how did you so compellingly write Jenny's voice without making it sound like your own (or is it your own?) :)
I'm snarkier then Jenny and not as melancholy, I don't think, but there's a lot of me in her. There's a lot of me in all my characters. It's kind of like when you're with your crazy outgoing friend, you act a little more like that, then when your parents are around, you're a little more subdued and respectable, then with your sister there's competition and you break out the vocabulary to show her she's not necessarily the smartest person in the room (just examples!). Although you may act very different with all those people, it's all still you being you. Just different sides of you. Writing for me is like that.
As I read Crossing Oceans I wondered if it was at all challenging for you to write about a mother/daughter relationship when up until recently you'd only experienced a mother/son relationship. Was that the case? If so, how did you work it out?
I had several lovely mother/daughter relationships, except that I was the daughter. I have a mother and step-mother who both love me very much, so I had a lot to pull from. I used much of my two sons's personalities in Isabella. "Cowpa" for example was something my older son, Jacob, used to call everyone with white hair. "Good morning beautiful Mama," is something my younger son, Levi still says to me.
How has being a nurse helped or hindered your creative endeavors?
Helped tremendously. I've said it before, but when you're caring for people who don't feel well, are dying, or giving birth, grieving or celebrating, you see them without their masks. I get to see a side of people that few will get to see. Besides raw emotion, I also have of course the medical knowledge to draw from. Knowing all of this saves me a lot of time in research and sparks ideas in general.
And speaking of nursing, we'd love to hear how and why you chose nursing as a career.
Okay, this is a completely pathetic answer, but I had no idea what to do with my life, I was in my twenties and waiting tables and knew I didn't want to do that forever. I sat in my father's kitchen with the help-wanted ads and saw row after row of "RN" positions. I asked my dad what that was and eventually applied for nursing school. Some people have that as their calling in life, but I don't think I do. I'm pretty good at it, and I certainly am a caring and scientific minded person, but I would have gone to school for literature if I had it to do over again. Still, nursing has been very good to me.
Christian fiction has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years. What are your thoughts on the future of Christian fiction?
The future is rosey. It used to be when someone thought of Christian fiction they conjured up images of pat answers and cardboard characters which may not have been fair, I don't know. I haven't read back all that far. But now, I challenge anyone to find a better writer than Charles Martin, Lisa Samson, Claudia Mair Burney, Tosca Lee and so forth.
Our subject matters are covering tougher topics (Crossing Oceans deals with an out of wedlock pregnancy for instance), and hopefully speaking to today's readers in an authentic way that they can relate to.
Ever had any unusual or embarrassing moments at a book signing or while performing research?
I've only had one booksigning at the time I'm writing this but still I manage to say yes. A young man asked me, "How do you write?" I went on a bit about getting published and he said, "No, I mean, how do you WRITE. Put pen to paper, and have words to say."
This stumped me. I babbled something about the weather maybe, I don't remember.
What would you love to write someday but haven't yet?
Have you ever read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell? An odd book. I'd love to write a really whimsical strange book that's completely dry in humor. That would be fun!
Where is your favorite place to write?
On my couch with a cup of coffee, my husband beside me and our dog, Maggie, at my feet. I also like to write on the screened porch on nice days.
As the founder of the award winning blog Novel Journey, you've had the chance to interview dozens, if not hundreds of authors. Did your blog play any role in your eventually signing with Tyndale House?
I'm sure it didn't hurt, but if it was all about the blog, I would have been signed with book one, book two, book three or book four. You can do all the platform building you want, but if you don't write well, unless you're a heck of a lot bigger than I am, you ain't going to sign with a company worth their salt. No, Tyndale liked the story. The platform didn't hurt my chances certainly, but neither did it write the book.
I hear you're hard at work on your next book. Can you give us a little teeny sneak peek into what it's about? :)
There's a first chapter excert at the back of Crossing Oceans if any one has that. It's a third person, multiple pov story between a married couple struggling in the aftermath of falling out of love and infidelity. Of course there will be some humor as I can't help myself and maybe a quirky character or two, since those are my favorite to write.
Who is Gina Holmes?
Who ISN'T Gina Holmes?
What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
I am fearless and I have a soft spot for bugs.
When you're not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
Hiking. I love and need to be in nature. It's where I feel God best.
What did you eat for breakfast this morning?
Dag you're a nosey thing. Um, I worked as a nurse so ate breakfast at lunch time, so that would be a turkey burger.
Three things always found in your refrigerator:
Frank's hot sauce, milk for the kids, sharp cheddar cheese for me.
You're next in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?
Booooooring answer to follow warning. Tall coffee with milk, no sugar. I'm not all that fancy.
What's left unchecked in your "goals for life" list?
So many things, though so many things have been accomplished that I could die happy today. See my children marry. Grandchildren. Retiring with my husband. Jumping out of a plane (parachute please), whitewater rafting, supporting an overseas orphanage, Israel visit, and travelling many other places.
When was the last time you cried?
The other night at my book launch party. My parents surprised me by driving all the way from New Jersey to be there. I hadn't seen them in at least a year. It touched me.
Three words that best describe you:
Loyal. Quirky. Passionate.
What's currently in your CD player/iPod?
Third Day. I adore them.
Watch the trailer for Crossing Oceans:
C.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.